I’m still alive. And dumbstruck by this year’s TdF soap opera shennanigans. And reading books about Basque history, re-reading Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride (after last plowing through it about 16 years ago), and reading about 100 pages of Paul Kimmage journalism from the past decade. But more on that in the near future…
Well, there’s always Superweek. I still think Vinokourov and Kashechkin should have rolled up to the prologue start house in their TT gear, with a couple of burly Kazakh soigneurs/hired-goons in tow, and made the UCI officials/ASO staff blow a gasket. Why not let them ride? They’ve got a bus, some bikes, some fitness, and nothing else to do in July–the minimum riders on the roster rule was just a cop-out to keep Astana-Wurth out of the race. I think Tour teams have finished in Paris with 2 riders, why not let Astana-Wurth separate the wheat from the chaff from the get-go and start their Kazakh giant slayers.
Things you don’t see everyday. Take a look at this photo. Take a long look. The orange-clad speed demon front-and-center is none other than Basque Inaki Isasi. The only thing perhaps more bizarro than a Euskaltel-Euskadi rider mixing it up with Boonen and Freire would be watching Magnus Backstedt and Pavel Padrnos sprinting it out for first atop L’Alpe-d’Huez.
“Serguei Gonchar? There’s a Mr. Vinokourov on the phone…” Any bets on whether T-Mobile implodes when the roads head skyward? We’re going to see a team split in half, just like the 1987 Carrera squad in the Giro, or the 1986 La Vie Claire squad in the Tour. T-Mobile has 3 Germans, 2 Italians, 1 Ukrainian, and 1 Australian. The Germans will stick together, the Italians and honorary Italian Gonchar will stick together, and Rogers is just screwed and will be riding by himself. I’m sure Gonchar is all too aware of what happens when non-Germans on T-Mobile try to “assert their author-i-ta” in le Tour.
Redneck Kryptonite. Just in case you didn’t already think Floyd Landis is the hardest man on the planet, here’s a choice Landis factoid from a July 3rd ESPN: The Magazine feature article:
“When Landis–who spends much of the racing season in Spain–churns out 100-mile (or more) training rides through the mountains near his home in Murrieta, Calif., he’s accompanied by his wife’s 18-year old brother, Max Basile. Max follows in a small SUV, and next to him sit the tools of his trade: a can of Mace and a stun gun. These are meant to protect Landis in case someone on these back roads, maybe a redneck type with spandex issues, messes with him. But wouldn’t just one weapon of mass deterrence suffice? ‘No,’ Landis says, as if the idea borders on blasphemy. ‘We need ‘em both. That way we can blind ‘em before we shock ‘em’.
The Curse lives! I’ve discussed the Performance Cover Curse not too long ago, and it seems that Bobby Julich is still unable to shake loose from its insidious grasp. Of course, from the comfort of my living room, it’s all too easy to second guess what went down in the TT (in addition to Julich himself), but here goes:
(1) Bobby, do you remember 1989? When you were the junior national cyclocross champion? You should have conjured up your best Todd Wells skills and bunny-hopped that pesky roundabout curb ensuring a guaranteed place in TdF lore and legend.
(2) You should have flipped over onto your back and put that 5-gallon Camelbak(barely visible) under your skinsuit to use as a curb cushion. This move would likely not garner as much street cred as option #1, but you wouldn’t be in the hospital and have to placate a crying daughter.
No more race radios. Except for a gutsy move by Sylvain Calzati (whose victory may have been more indicative of age-old peloton payola), all of the Tour stages have been too formulaic. Break goes. Break gets 7 minutes. Break gets caught at 5km to go. I think if riders had to do more thinking about who’s up the road, and be a bit more attentive to what’s going on of their own devices, there’d be more drama on the open road. And all that talk about “Well, it helps the riders’ safety so they’ll know about road hazards” is quite simply a crock. Just look at how many riders hit the deck in this edition of the Tour alone from coming face-to-face with potholes and shoddy paving (talk to Erik Dekker, Chris Horner, or Fred Rodriguez for starters).
Giovanni Lombardi. Unfortunately, with the latest revelations from the Landis camp, Lombardi’s “Hardest Man in Cycling” moniker may not be entirely his alone. But who cares. Lombardi is riding his 5th consecutive Grand Tour and doing the work of a small army on his own. Says Chris Horner, “Discovery had five guys protecting Armstrong, but Lombardi does it by himself for Basso” (ed.-and now Sastre). Just look at the stage finishes most days so far. Lombardi is usually only a couple of places in front of Sastre, usually rolling in just behind the sprinting frenzy in about 30th-40th. And Lombardi out TTed a hapless Levi Leipheimer:
92. Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Team CSC @5.55.78
96. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner @6.05.46
Ouch. Beaten by a man who treated that stage as a rest day.